Lake Superior district adopts four-day week after failed levyThe district expects to save about $250,000 a year with a four-day week.
By: Matt Suoja, Lake County News Chronicle
The Lake Superior School Board reacted swiftly to voters’ rejection Tuesday of an operating levy, implementing a four-day school week for next school year during a meeting this evening.
The proposed property tax levy increase failed by a 2-1 margin as voters rejected all three possible levy amounts. Tonight's 5-2 School Board decision means Two Harbors and Silver Bay now will join a growing number of Minnesota schools switching to a longer school day and shorter weeks to cut down on bus routes driven, cooling and heating and some part-time jobs.
The district expects to save about $250,000 a year with a four-day week.
“The voters have left us with little option,” said board member Pat Wilson.
About 9,500 ballots were mailed to registered voters and 5,021 were returned. All three funding levels on the ballot failed by wide margins. Question 1, for $550 per pupil unit, went down 3,551 to 1,420; Question 2 ($425) failed 3,264 to 1,676; and Question 3 ($300) failed 3,164 to 1,773.
“It makes a pretty strong statement,” Superintendent Phil Minkkinen said. “We are going to look for ways to economize.”
“It’s disappointing,” said School Board member Dwight Moe. “I don’t know what we are going to do.”
The schedule for a four-day week means 410 minutes of class time per day compared to 343 minutes in the five-day schedule. Students will be in school 142 days instead of 170. The schedule will be Monday through Thursday, meaning some working parents will have to find care for their children on Fridays.
Minkkinen said it’s unlikely the district will cut programs or teachers next school year, but it looks like it will have to make cuts in 2011-12, when the budget shortfall is expected to reach nearly $1 million.
Minkkinen put blame for the failed vote on a bad economy and bad timing. He also theorized that a “vast majority” of voters “don’t have kids in school.”
The $425 per-pupil-unit levy would have caused property taxes to go up $69.94 a year on a $100,000 home for 10 years.
Minkkinen said future cuts could come in the arts, business and industrial arts. He said some programs may need to be combined between Two Harbors and Silver Bay.
“Everything is open now,” Moe said.
A failed levy is nothing new to the district.
Levy votes failed in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, the district was facing a $1.3 million deficit which led to the loss of 25 jobs.
Some in the public have argued the district has not been financially responsible. Others look at the school building in Two Harbors, opened in 2005, and think it cost too much and voters were tricked into agreeing to build it.
Minkkinen said many things have been done to curb spending, such as making buildings more energy efficient, going out for bids to get cheaper health insurance, and a recent two-year salary freeze for all employees in the district.
The Lake County News-Chronicle and the News Tribune are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.